George Gershwin died in 1937, aged only 38. Ever since, and for many years often thanks to his surviving brother Ira, the best of his astonishing legacy of thousands of classic songs has been combined in different compilations to create new Gershwin ‘musicals’ for film and theatre. Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent’s Crazy for You must surely be one of the most joyous and sassy of these posthumous creations.
They tell the preposterous backstage musical story with a flair and pizzazz, that seems wonderfully true to the Gershwin spirit and favourite Gershwin numbers seem tailor-made for the narrative. Plums include “Nice work if you can get it”, “Embraceable you”, “But not for me”, “I got rhythm”, “Someone to watch over me”, “They can’t take that away from me” – and the hilarious and harmonious “I’m biding my time”.
The action moves from 42nd Street New York to Main Street, Deadrock, Nevada, following the fortunes of Bobby Child, heir to a banking fortune and wannabe Follies star, as he attempts to save the hick town’s theatre he’s been sent to close.
This is one of those satisfying productions where all the assembled talent fits together perfectly. George and Ira would surely have been delighted by director Chris Colby’s witty, spirited revival and MD Jonathan Gill’s musical verve.
Darren Bennett is just fine as Bobby but really hits his stride in his hirsute disguise as Broadway impresario, Bela Zangler. He’s well matched by feisty Melanie Stace as Polly, daughter of Deadrock’s theatre owner, who spurns Bobby, only to fall for the bearded impostor. The real Zangler Mark Wynter and his doppelganger provide the show’s funniest moments with a wonderfully precise mirror routine.
There’s great support from Matt Zimmerman as Polly’s genial father and Audrey Leybourne as Bobby’s snooty mother. Jenny Cox turns in a terrific vamp as Bobby’s spurned fiancée, especially in a sexy double act with Karl Moffatt’s mean ‘n jealous Lank, on the rebound from Polly. Sue Hodge and Christopher Beeny are a hoot as the gung-ho Brits, Patricia and Eugene Fodor, compiling their guidebook to Hicksville.
But for me the stars of the show are the chorus of assorted showgirls and cowpokes who sing, act, and above all dance David Kort’s terrific choreography, with irresistible energy and a real sense of fun. Alan Miller-Bunford’s witty and effective sets and Amy Macnamara’s delicious costumes are the icing on a scrumptious cake.
- Judi Herman (seen at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford)